A critical aspect of Responsible Coaching is building the team culture you want by gaining buy-in from players’ parents. A group meeting with parents and guardians is a wise investment - people tend to live up to expectations if they know what those expectations are!
Ideally, you would lead a parent meeting in a private setting where you can have the group’s full attention. If this is not possible, then the meeting could occur before one of the first practices or games when parents would need to drop off their child anyway.
It is a great idea to create an agenda for these meetings. See some ideas are outlined below.
Welcome and Introductions
Share how excited you are about the upcoming season and having their child on your team. Explain your relevant background as an athlete, coach, parent and community member. Learn more about the parents too. Consider asking each parent to share a favorite memory from their sports experience as a way to get to know them.
Coaching Philosophy/Team Values
Explain your values as a Responsible Coach and share your Responsible Coaching philosophy:
• Honoring the Game through the code of ROOTS (Respecting Rules, Opponents, Officials, Teammates and Self)
• Filling the Emotional Tank and aiming for the Magic Ratio of five truthful, specific praises for every specific, constructive criticism
• The ELM Tree of Mastery (Effort, Learning and Mistakes are OK)
Ask for parents’ support in building a team culture that reinforces these principles.
Goals and Hopes for the Season
Responsible Coaches help parents and athletes set goals both on and off the field. Consider goals for the season such as:
• love the sport at least as much at the end of the season as at the beginning
• improve skills and tactical knowledge
• get chances to compete in meaningful situations
• want to return next season
Ask parents about their goals and hopes for the season. This may give insight into their child’s motivation. You also will begin to discern who will support your team culture and goals. You don’t have to respond to everything right then – you can think about it and talk with parents later if they express goals that are inconsistent with your values.
Make sure everyone has practice and game schedules. Hand out a phone and e-mail list (or get parents to sign up on a list for distribution later). Make sure they understand what equipment their child needs and leave plenty of time for questions.
Share your policy on playing time and missing practice which will help avoid future conflict. Let parents know when they can contact you (at work during the day, only in the evening, etc.)
Ask for Volunteers
Your parent meeting is a good time to find volunteers for any duties you need help with, such as a snack or carpool coordinator. This provides another chance to see who is most (and least) enthusiastic to support the Responsible Sports culture you are trying to establish.
Finally, have fun!
Don’t forget: athletes, parents and coaches participate in youth sports because we love it! Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the ride.
Have a great season!
In an effort to benefit millions of youth athletes, parents and coaches, this article is among a series created exclusively for partners in the Liberty Mutual Responsible Sports ProgramTM powered by Positive Coaching Alliance.
About Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible SportsTM Program
The Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible SportsTM program supports volunteer youth sports coaches and parents who help our children succeed both on and off the field. We offer many youth sports resources including $2,500 community grants, instructional videos, weekly tips, peer and expert advice and coursework for those interested in improving the youth sports experience for all.